Theretra latreillii (W.S.Macleay, 1826)
(one synonym : Chaerocampa amara Swinhoe, 1892)
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

Theretra latreillii
early instar
(Photo: courtesy of Tom and David Sleep, Queensland)

This Caterpillar is initially green with a pair of pale dorso-lateral lines, but later instars are brown with dark diagonal patches along the sides. The early instars have a dark spike on the tail which curves slightly forward.

Theretra latreillii
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, New South Wales)

In later instars the spike on the tail curves backwards and ends in a sudden point. The spike is quite harmless.

Theretra latreillii
(Photo: courtesy of Marie-Louise Sendes, taken in Currarong, New South Wales)

They also have one eyespot on each side of the abdomen on the first abdominal segment that always has some red coloration. They also sometimes have a minor eyespot on the second abdominal segment.

Theretra latreillii
(Photo: courtesy of David Mohn)

Normally the main eyespot is hidden by a fold in the skin of the first abdominal segment, and the spot is only displayed when the animal is disturbed. Indeed when the skin is folded, the head and prothorax look like the upper jaw, and the first set of legs like the lower jaw, of some much larger beast, which may deter predators.

Theretra latreillii
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, New South Wales)

The caterpillar has been found feeding on a wide variety of plants, but it is perhaps most often found on :

  • Virginia Creeper ( Parthenocissus quinquefolia ), and
  • Slender Grape ( Cayratia clematidea ),

    of VITACEAE.

    The caterpillar has also been found on :

  • Busy Lizzy ( Impatiens walleriana, BALSAMINACEAE ),
  • Fuzzy Begonia ( Begonia peltata, BEGONIACEAE ),
  • Crepe Myrtle ( Lagerstroemia indica, LYTHRACEAE ), and
  • Fuchsias ( Fuchsia species, ONAGRACEAE ), and
  • Bandicoot Berry ( Leea indica, VITACEAE ).

    It grows to a length of about 7 cms.

    Theretra latreillii
    (Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, New South Wales)

    The caterpillar pupates under the soil near the food plant.

    Theretra latreillii
    (Photo: copyright Lyn Finn,
    Hunter Region School of Photography in Newcastle,
    Macquarie Hills, New South Wales)

    The moth is a boring brown, with two dark lines and dots on each fore wing, and with darker plain hind wings. It has a wing span of about 7 cms. The adult moths have some slightly darker banding across the abdomen, which may be used to distinguish them from the related species Theretra tryoni. The adults of these two species may be barely distinguishable, but the caterpillars are easily distinguished, having only one eyespot on each side, whereas Theretra tryoni caterpillars have two.

    Theretra latreillii
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The eggs are spherical and pale green. They are laid singly on a leaf of a foodplant.

    Theretra latreillii
    (Photo: courtesy of Tom and David Sleep, Queensland)

    The species is found as various subspecies over much of Asia, including :

  • China,
  • Hong Kong,
  • Papua,
  • Philippines,
  • Thailand,

    and over the northern tropical and subtropical regions of Australia, including

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland, and
  • New South Wales.

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 42.1, pl. 29.12, pp. 38, 71, 415.

    Peter Hendry,
    A Night at Ray's,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 57 (June 2010), pp. 30-32,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    William Sharp Macleay,
    in Philip Parker King :
    Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia,
    Volume 2 (1826), Appendix B, p. 464, No. 165.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 203.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 169.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 7 April 2013, 18 April 2017)